For more information on Sharon Hollingsworth and Brian Stevenson please see the sidebar for the About Your Humble Bloggers link.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What do Fred Astaire, Peter Pan and Don Bradman have in common with Ned Kelly? [Sharon Hollingsworth]

What do Fred Astaire, Peter Pan and Don Bradman have in common with Ned Kelly?

The thread that pulls them all these diverse strands together is Sir Douglas Shields, an Australian surgeon who found fame and fortune practicing in London. Douglas Shields was the son of Dr. Andrew Shields, who was chief medical officer at the Old Melbourne Gaol. Dr. Shields attended Ned Kelly when he was brought in to the Gaol and he later actually allowed Douglas (at age 4) to go in and see Ned Kelly in his cell. (Years later young Douglas also got to meet Frederick Deeming as his father also attended to him). 

As for the previously mentioned names, when Fred Astaire and his sister Adele were doing shows in London in the 1920s they were accompanied by their mother, Ann, who had taken ill and spent time at Shields's nursing home. Sir James Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, was good friends with Shields and a patient of his, also. He was in the nursing home at the same time as Astaire's mother and befriended her and met with Fred and Adele.

Cricket legend Don Bradman's life was saved by Douglas Shields when he operated on him for an acute case of appendicitis in 1934.

Another Kelly tie-in is that back in the 1890s Douglas Shields was a member of the half-battery of Royal Horse Artillery at Sir William Clarke's Rupertswood estate. Of course it ties in due to the fact  that Superintendent Francis Hare was related to the Clarke family by marriage and that he had spent time at Rupertswood recuperating after Glenrowan and had given a set of Kelly gang armour to Clarke.

Sir Douglas Shields led a fascinating life. In World War I he became a Brigadier General in the Royal Army Medical Corps. The hospital that was built for him in London by the mother of a grateful patient (even though the patient did not pull through, the hospital being built as a memorial to her son) became the Hospital for Wounded Officers during the war. It later became a private clinic/rest home. Shields was knighted in 1919. He had many rich and famous patients other than those mentioned above, one of them being the Grand Duke Alexander of Russia.

There is a great deal more on the net about Sir Douglas Shields which is well worth a look if you are so inclined.

Currently I am working on a blog post about Ned Kelly and how he was denied visits from his family and friends (other than his mother) during most of his prison incarceration. This bit about Douglas Shields getting in to see him seemed like a good teaser/lead in for it.

Stay tuned!

[Note: the post alluded to above has now been added at]

Article Alert: Local Connection to Ned Kelly

From Google Alerts

The Manly Daily newspaper of June 28, 2011 had an article called Local connection to Ned Kelly.

From the article:

Frenchs Forest Bushland Cemetery has recently provided an historical plaque at their cemetery to mark the gravesite of Heddington Joseph Jones who has a direct connection to Australia’s most famous outlaw….Ned Kelly !

Jones was the youngest son of the Ann Jones, the proprietor of the Glenrowan Inn, and as a young child he was present at the siege of Glenrowan in 1880 when the Kelly gang held 62 people hostage during the shootout with the Victorian police.

To read more and see the photo:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Article Alert: Ned Kelly Rides Again For Armadale Poet

From Google Alerts

In the Stonnington Leader newspaper there is an article called Ned Kelly Rides Again For Armadale Poet.

From the article:

When Graeme Ellis started writing a few poems about the life and times of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly he found he couldn’t stop.

Two years later, the Armadale poet has published Verse Ned Kelly, the story of the legendary 19th century icon through a series of poems.

To read more go to:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Douglas Morrissey Thesis, Chapter 5, Part One [Brian Stevenson]

Note that this is the fourth installment in an ongoing series of chapter reviews of Doug Morrissey's 1987 thesis "Selectors, Squatters and Stock Thieves: A Social History of Kelly Country." The first part can be found at

This chapter of the wonderful Morrissey thesis is a long one, nearly fifty pages, so I will digest it in installments. I simply could not do it justice in one blog post.

Chapter 5 looks at the social order and authority in the Kelly country during the period of interest to us.

Of course, those in charge during this period were overwhelmingly British. Irish Catholics, Scottish Presbyterians and English and Welsh Protestants predominated in every way possible - in numbers, in influence and in authority. One angry 'representative' of a very small number of Irish Catholics would later make much of this in his so-called Jerilderie letter, but the overwhelming impression that Morrissey has is of harmony and homogeneity, based on the 'Britishness' of the residents of the district. English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish (of the Orange and the Green variety) all 'jealously guarded their respective identities, but had little difficulty in perceiving themselves as British.'

Curious as it may seem, many of the Irish in the district had no trouble reconciling the troubled past of their island with loyalty to the British Crown. As Morrissey puts it:

'Colonial Irishmen remembered Ireland's past vividly, and on purely tribal occasions ... denounced England's domination of their homeland. But they also saw themselves as loyal British subjects living in an enlightened age of human reform, and age which they believed would see the end of England's domination of Ireland and the eventual granting of Home Rule.'

Such denunciations, even though they were non-seditious, came from the most surprising of sources. Squatters James Whitty and Andrew Byrne (both mentioned by name in the Jerilderie letter, although Byrne - no relation to you-know-who - had his name rendered as 'Burns') had no trouble denouncing 'English landlords' before the meetings of the Irish National Land League, and dutifully pledging allegiance to the Crown on other occasions. It was simply what people have done many times before and since - not been satisfied with things as they were, but being respectful of the traditional institutions and realising that social change, no matter how desirable, was best implemented gradually and peacefully. And gradual the change it was, with Home Rule for Ireland eventually coming into being in 1921, a slow process but still within the lifetimes of many people who knew Ned Kelly.

British social homogeneity manifested itself in the most surprising forms in the Kelly Country during this period. Glasses were lifted to toast the Royal Family at the St Patrick's ball organised by the local Hibernian Society. Roman Catholics and Protestants helped each other with collecting funds for church buildings and schools. The Catholic Whitty children went to a school established by the Greta Primitive Methodist community. Jane Byrne and Kate Whitty - pleasant ladies, I am sure, but presumably not of the stuff of which the distaff side of fiery Irish nationalists were made - formed the Moyhu branch of the Victorian Native Ladies Land League, which quietly but firmly supported the Irish cause. The Whittys and the Byrnes, and numerous other families, squatter and selector, simply preferred to overlay their publicly declared loyalty to Ireland with due deference to the prevailing authority. As Morrissey puts it: 'Support for the Irish National Land League and Irish Home Rule were acceptable channels of protest, allowing colonial Irishmen to exercise their patriotism without losing their status as loyal British subjects.'

Where does the oft-mentioned but never really solidly evidenced Republic of Northeastern Victoria fit into all this? Nowhere, really. Morrissey tactfully puts the contention of those writers who accept the notion of a republic as 'being open to serious doubt.' Well aware of the perennial and inherent difficulty of proving a negative - ie that there were never any plans for a republic - Morrissey suggests that the aborted train wreck at Glenrowan was meant to be a prelude to a series of co-ordinated bank raids instead. Whatever the case, the 'strangely passive' group of sympathisers did not feel motivated enough, either by nationalism or financial gain, to assist the beleaguered Gang and instead stood by while it was destroyed. It's also worth noting that there was an absence of politically and/or racially motivated crime in the area which would be some sort of a vague bolster to the notion of a hypothesised republic.

I'll let Morrissey have the last word on the plans for a republic, which, if they ever had any existence at all, were:

'part of a local undercurrent which has left no trace ... The Kelly Outbreak and particularly its dramatic closing moments at Glenrowan, are not a sound basis upon which to assess thge loyalty and behaviour of the region's Irish settlers. The majority of Irish settlers, many of whom may have felt some sympathy for the outlaws, were not directly involved in Ned Kelly's rebellion. The Glenrowan episode represents a crisis in the Kelly Outbreak whch, if a republican conspiracy was being planned, indicates the extreme alienation of the Kelly Gang and its immediate sympathisers from their Irish Catholic neighbours in the region.'

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Article Alert: Prototype Armour From 1873?

From Google Alerts

In an article from the Age entitled  Legends of the VFA/VFL  it tells about how Ned Kelly, while serving time on the prison hulk Sacramento, played 11 games for the Williamstown Football Club.

It also states that:

" records indicated that Kelly was a ''very tough centre half-back'' with ''unconventional tactics''. It is believed Kelly was on track to win the club best and fairest in 1873 but was suspended for six weeks in his final game for headbutting the emergency umpire. In 1928, the club uncovered more evidence of Kelly's time at Williamstown when, while resurfacing the ground, it discovered a prototype of the armour that the bushranger eventually used for the events in Glenrowan."

Read more:

I sure have never heard that about the finding of the prototype armour before. Why would he have needed it or even thought of need for it back in 1873? Was he that prescient??  Hmmm.....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Article Alert:: Tattoo Predicts Chances of Suicide, Murder

Wow, sounds like it is dangerous to get a Ned Kelly tattoo!

From Google Alerts

At Discovery News:

Tattoo Predicts Chances of Suicide, Murder

From the article:

Individuals sporting a Ned Kelly tattoo are more likely to die as a result of suicide or homicide, suggests a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine.

Later in the article it continues with:

He concludes, "Individuals with Ned Kelly tattoos in this series certainly had an above average incidence of traumatic deaths compared to other forensic cases; ironically, this was also a feature of the ill-fated members of the Kelly gang whose leader is commemorated in these designs."

To read more:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jim Kelly in a Circus Troupe??? [Sharon Hollingsworth]

In a previous blog posting called "Under the Big Top" at I detailed about the Kelly Gang's tie-ins with Australian circuses. In that I mentioned about Ned Kelly's half-brother, Jack King, who went by the professional name of Jack Kelly when he was performing in circuses as an expert horseman. He was with Wirth's Circus in the 1890s, leaving for a while to become a policeman out in West Australia, and then leaving that post in 1908 to rejoin Wirth's. Why I bring all this up is to show that it was perhaps Jack King (Kelly) who was the one alluded to in a narrative regarding what happened at the Kelly homestead back in 1878 and not Jim Kelly who was said to be quoted. Of course, Jack was only 3 years old back then, but maybe he was told the story by family members or maybe he actually remembers it? What I am referring to is an account in a book called "Datas: the Memory Man by Himself" published in the 1930s telling about the time that Datas (aka William John Maurice Bottle) was performing his amazing feats of memory with Wirth's Circus in Australia in 1909/1910.

Ian Jones, in the notes at the back of "Ned Kelly: A Short Life" credits the book "Datas: The Memory Man by Himself" as being the reference he used for "Jim's account" of what happened at the homestead on April 15, 1878 which is detailed in his book.

A long time ago I found the full text for the Datas book online, then could not find it for a good long while, but luckily stumbled back over it in recent days while searching for something else.

Datas says that:

"....young Jim Kelly - a younger brother of Dan and Ned the bushrangers - was a great pal of mine, having travelled over 44,000 miles with me as ring-master of Wirth's Circus with which I was
appearing. From Jim I heard many wonderful stories of his notorious brothers at first hand....."

It went on for several paragraphs relating the whole Kelly drama, one very telling part being this:

"I was only a kid at the time.."
of the Fitzpatrick episode in 1878. That would have had to be Jack King Kelly. Jim Kelly was 19 at the time and in still in gaol, hardly a kid and hardly there!

Datas kept on saying Jim this, Jim that, but we know that in 1910 when B.W. Cookson went to the Kelly country to interview people that Jim Kelly was at home in Greta and working as a drover as he had been for quite some time. He was not out travelling in a circus troupe, but his younger half-brother Jack was!

Datas also related how he met Thomas Curnow who related his experiences to him and that:

"....perhaps the most singular thing about that tour of mine in Australia is the fact that
not only was Jim Kelly a member of the circus company but amongst the tent-men was one
named Gilbert, who was the son of the notorious Gilbert, who, with another desperado named
O'Mealy was one of the Ben Hall gang of bushrangers..."

Datas went on to related about Jim Kelly and an episode with a drunken elephant and about his own amusing incident when he mistook an escaped lion for a dog!

To read this chapter go to

So, we can safely assume that it was Jack King Kelly who was with Datas the Memory Man touring with Wirth's Circus and NOT Jim Kelly (Maybe the Memory Man had an uncharacteristic lapse of memory?).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Article Alert: Controversal Author's Game as Ned Kelly

From Google Alerts

In the June , 2011 issue of the Melton Weekly there is an article entitled "Controversal Author's as Game as Ned Kelly."

It begins with:

Ian MacFarlane says he fears being deported from Australia once his new book on Ned Kelly is released.

But the Balliang resident, who travelled to seven countries before he was 21, is used to being the odd one out.

"I am about to finish writing The Kelly Gang Unmasked," Mr MacFarlane says. "I expect to be deported from Australia once the book comes out because it is not in favour of Ned.

"I think he was a dangerous man to be around, but the folklore that sprung up around him was very colourful."

To read more go to

Monday, June 6, 2011

Douglas Morrissey's Thesis - Chapter 4, Storekeepers, Millers and Farmers [Brian Stevenson]

 Note that this is the third installment in an ongoing series of chapter reviews of Doug Morrissey's 1987 thesis "Selectors, Squatters and Stock Thieves: A Social History of Kelly Country." The first part can be found at

The fourth chapter of Douglas Morrissey's excellent 1987 thesis deals with the economic conditions faced by wheat farmers in the Kelly country, Greta, Glenrowan and Moyhu, during the 1870s, particularly after the arrival of the railway. While the subject matter is invariably a little dry compared to the usual colourful richness of the material surrounding the Kellys and their times, Morrissey is his usual thorough self with this chapter. He comes to some important conclusions which suggest that the lot of the wheat farmer, while never particularly easy, was bearable if said farmer was willing to take the bad seasons with the good, and work hard to overcome the problems.

The price of wheat fluctuated through the decade, of course, like every other commodity in every other decade. But because of the railway, farmers now had the important economic advantage of being able to sell directly, cash on delivery, meaning that they got their money more quickly than before. Lease mortgages were available for the farmers, but less than half of the farmers took up this option, and less than one-tenth needed another mortgage besides the lease mortgage option, suggesting that the times were no more or less benevolent than other decades.

A shadow was cast over the district by the bankruptcy of James Dixon, a Wangaratta councillor whose reckless trading in grain (and subsequent issuing of unsecured bills of exchange in place of cash to raise the wind) left him with many debtors and ruined many farmers. A meeting at the celebrated O'Brien's Hotel in Greta of Dixon's many creditors included the Whitty Family, Ned Kelly's Uncle Pat Quinn and some selector families who were later Kelly sympathisers. One unfortunate creditor, a very old resident named Jackson Orr, later drowned himself when he lost his life savings of three hundred pounds. The callous Dixon, on hearing the news, commented: 'Why when ... I lost nine thousand pounds a few years ago, I never thought of drowning myself.'

Many selectors, however, recovered, and besides Orr and two other selectors who also went insolvent, no other selector was fatally wounded economically by Dixon's rash business practices. One selector, James O'Brien, asked for more time to pay his rent, citing Dixon as the cause, but the government bailiff was unsympathetic, and suggested that he pay his arrears. Two years later, O'Brien was able to purchase the freehold to his property.

Ned Kelly's uncle, Pat Quinn sold his crop to Dixon on a three month bill of exchange that was never redeemed. He struggled for a time, defaulting on several rent payments prior to and immediately following his loss, but he almost doubled the area of his land that he had under cultivation between 1874 and 1877, obtaining the freehold to his selection in February 1879 - the month that his two nephews rode into Jerilderie.

Pat was not on his own. Seventy percent of selectors residing in the Greta and Glenrowan era eventually gained freehold title to their properties, suggesting that the Kelly family would have been better, in the very long term, to stick to farming rather than trading in the livestock, especially that of other people. (As it was, and this is just from memory, the surviving Kellys finally obtained the freehold to their land in 1892, with just one surviving son, who spent a few years of the years after 1880 in gaol instead of making the selection pay.)

Morrissey has an admiration for the selectors who he describes as 'on the whole, extremely hardy individuals, able physically and financially to withstand the trials and tribulations of farming life in the region.' To their own infinite cost, two of the Kelly brothers never joined that number, although a third one, eventually did so. That he survived them by over six and a half decades suggests that, even if it was a bit late, Jim Kelly had chosen the right path. It was one that Ned and Dan could so easily have followed.

The next installment in this series is now available at